Foreign minister in Kabul, says Taliban delegation to visit Pakistan in ‘next few days’

Afghanistan's interim Prime Minister Mullah Hassan Akhund (R) meets Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (2nd from R) in Kabul on October 21, 2021. (APP)
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Updated 21 October 2021

Foreign minister in Kabul, says Taliban delegation to visit Pakistan in ‘next few days’

  • FM Qureshi is the highest-ranking Pakistani official who has visited Afghanistan since the Taliban overran the neighboring country
  • The Pakistani foreign minister told journalists in Kabul he had a ‘fruitful meeting’ with the top leaders of Taliban administration

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday told journalists in Kabul a Taliban delegation would visit his country “in the next few days” to address bilateral issues and further strengthen the relations between the two countries.

The foreign minister went to Afghanistan earlier today on his first visit since the Taliban overran the neighboring state in mid-August, the Pakistani foreign office said, with an aim to hold talks to cover “entire spectrum” of bilateral relations.

Qureshid is the highest-ranking Pakistani official to visit Kabul since the Taliban announced their interim government in early September and was accompanied by the Pakistani intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hamid.

Speaking to journalists after an elaborate meeting with Taliban officials, he said he had exchanged views with the Afghan interim prime minister Mullah Hassan Akhund and nearly all members of his cabinet.

Qureshi added he was accompanied by a number of Pakistani officials who were continuing working group discussions with their Afghan counterparts to thrash out significant issues.

“A Taliban delegation will also visit Islamabad in the next few days to carry forward these discussions,” he said while pointing out that the continued conversation would help the two states finalize bilateral issues and further consolidate their relationship.

The foreign minister said he had a useful interaction with the Taliban administration in which the two sides discussed a range of issues to set the strategic direction of their future relationship.

“It was a very fruitful meeting,” he told journalists in a brief video interview posted on Twitter. “We discussed almost all issues related to the future trade, transportation and regional connectivity.”

 

 

Prior to his brief media interaction, Qureshi had told the Afghan interim prime minister that Islamabad would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Kabul.

The foreign office announced in a statement issued before his departure from Pakistan that the talks between the two sides would cover the “entire spectrum” of bilateral relations and focus on ways and means to deepen cooperation in diverse areas.

“Utilizing the opportunity, the foreign minister will share Pakistan’s perspective on issues of regional peace and stability,” the statement added.

Since the fall of Kabul, Pakistan has been at the center stage of almost all developments in Afghanistan, be it the evacuation of foreign diplomats, aid workers and vulnerable Afghans, efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis or the formation of an inclusive government in the war-battered country.

On Wednesday, Islamabad urged the international community to continue its economic engagements with Afghanistan and unfreeze the Afghan financial assets parked in other countries.

Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, highlighted the issue while addressing a conference in Moscow that brought together officials from various regional countries, including representatives of Afghanistan’s new Taliban government.

The international community froze nearly $10 billion of Afghanistan’s financial assets in other countries after the fall of Kabul on August 15 since the money was viewed as a key instrument to mount political pressure on the Taliban.

“Foreign minister’s visit reflects Pakistan’s consistent policy of supporting the brotherly Afghan people, deepening bilateral trade and economic relations, and facilitating closer people-to-people contacts,” the foreign office statement read.

Last week, the Pakistani government also started a free online visa service for neighboring Afghanistan and abolished the $8 fee for it as a “goodwill gesture.”


Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets Pakistani delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

Updated 11 August 2022

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets Pakistani delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

  • Delivery rider went viral after removing two concrete blocks from a busy intersection while on duty
  • “An honor to meet you Abdul Ghafoor, a true example to be followed,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan

DUBAI: Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has met with delivery rider who went viral on social media after removing two concrete blocks from a busy intersection while on duty.
Abdul Ghafoor Abdul Hakeem gained widespread admiration on social media after a video captured the delivery rider waiting for trucks and vehicles to pass before rushing to remove two concrete blocks dangerously laying in middle of the road.
“An honor to meet you Abdul Ghafoor, a true example to be followed,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan.


Sheikh Hamdan had earlier posted the video as an Instagram story, inviting the public to help him identify the rider.
“An act of goodness in Dubai to be praised. Can someone point me to this man?” he captioned his story.


Pakistan Navy rescues 9 crew members of sinking Indian vessel near Gwadar — media

Updated 11 August 2022

Pakistan Navy rescues 9 crew members of sinking Indian vessel near Gwadar — media

  • The ship “Jamna Sagar” sank with 10 crew members aboard on Tuesday, says navy spokesperson
  • Nearby merchant ship ‘MT KRUIBEKE’ provided necessary assistance to the stranded crew

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Navy on Wednesday saved nine crew members of an Indian vessel after it sank in the Arabian Sea near Gwadar, Pakistani media reported on Thursday, quoting the Director-General Public Relations.

The ship “Jamna Sagar” sank with 10 crew members aboard on Tuesday (August 9), the navy spokesperson said in a statement, available with Dawn.com.

“The navy immediately responded to the distress call and the Pakistan Maritime Information Centre requested a nearby merchant ship ‘MT KRUIBEKE’ to provide necessary assistance to the stranded crew of the drowning sailing vessel,” the spokesman said.

“The merchant ship eventually recovered nine crew members and continued voyage to its next port Dubai and onward disembarked the crew.”

The statement said one Pakistan Navy ship, along with two helicopters, reached the area and located the dead body of one crew member who had gone missing when the vessel sank. 

"The body was handed over to Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) authorities for further proceedings," it added.


Pakistan’s national currency continues to gain against greenback

Updated 11 August 2022

Pakistan’s national currency continues to gain against greenback

  • Pakistani rupee gained Rs3.03 to close at Rs218.88 against the greenback in the interbank market
  • Rupee in the open market also appreciated from Rs218 to Rs216 for selling during trading on Thursday

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency on Thursday continued its bullish trend and appreciated 1.38 percent against the United States dollar amid easing balance of payment pressure and expected inflows from the International Monetary Fund, traders and analysts said.

The Pakistani rupee gained Rs3.03 to close at Rs218.88 against the greenback in the interbank market following eight consecutive appreciation trading sessions. The rupee has recouped its value by 9.3% or Rs21 against the greenback in the continued uptrend, according to State Bank of Pakistan data.

“There are couple of reasons for the current appreciation of the Pak rupee against dollar including easing off balance of payment pressure and declining demand at home after government’s administrative measures to curtail imports,” Tahir Abbas, Director Research at Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.  

“Declining current account deficit and price cut of oil and other commodities also eased off pressure on the rupee. The expected inflows from the IMF by the end of this month and undervalued currency are also the key reasons of rupee appreciation.”  

Following austerity measures by the government and a restriction on imports, the import bill has declined from $7.8 billion in June 2022 to $4.8 billion in July 2022, which has not only reduced the trade deficit but also eased pressure on the national currency.  

The rupee in the open market also appreciated from Rs218 to Rs216 for selling during trading on Thursday. The currency in the open market has appreciated by over 11% or Rs28 since July 29, 2022, according to the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP).

“There are only sellers in the market after the sentiments have changed following the measures taken by government and the central bank,” Zafar Paracha, General Secretary of ECAP told Arab News.
 
“The central bank has taken action against the banks’ treasuries departments which were involved in maneuvering of dollar in interbank market. In addition, the expected reduction in the import bill of August has also played appreciation role.”    

The pressure on the Pakistani rupee eased off after the government took steps to curtail imports and meet preconditions of the IMF for the revival of a $6 billion program signed in 2019 to stave off a balance of payment crisis.  

The IMF said last month it had reached a staff level agreement with Pakistan that would pave the way for the disbursement of $1.17 billion after its board approval later this month. Islamabad also has to convince the fund about the availability of funds for a $4 billion financing gap.

Last week, the UAE’s state news agency had reported that the country intended to invest $1 billion in Pakistani companies across various sectors, which include gas, energy infrastructure, renewable energy and healthcare.

Following the current bullish trend in the currency market, Pakistani analysts said the currency was likely to appreciate further to around Rs200 against the greenback in the near future.  

Stocks, however, on Thursday, remained bearish mainly due to profit taking that kicked off during the midsession. The benchmark KSE-100 index closed at 42,243 points, down by 251 points.

“Stocks fell sharply lower on political noise and hike in power tariff. Mid session support remained on strong rupee and falling Pakistan dollar bond yields,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News. “Investor concerns for weak earnings outlook played a catalyst role in bearish close.”


Pakistani journalists, lawyers call for review of British-era sedition laws seen as detrimental to free speech

Updated 11 August 2022

Pakistani journalists, lawyers call for review of British-era sedition laws seen as detrimental to free speech

  • The sedition law carries life imprisonment which legal experts say is against the fundamental rights of citizens
  • Journalist association urges the government to regulate implementation of the law to avoid vengeance and discrimination

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani journalists and lawyers on Thursday urged the government to formulate a mechanism to follow before registering cases under laws related to sedition, saying this was a pre-requisture to avoiding discrimination, vengeance and suppression of freedom of expression.

Pakistani governments and even private individuals have filed cases against journalists and activists in recent years under colonial-era sedition and incitement laws. A majority of these cases are registered under section 124-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, commonly known as the sedition law, and its sections 505 and 506, for incitement and promoting hatred between different religious, racial, or regional groups.

Pakistan’s sedition law carries sentences of life imprisonment which lawyers and journalists say was a “harsh punishment” used by  governments to silence critics and suppress freedom of expression.

“Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the federal or provincial government established by law shall be punished with imprisonment for life to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine,” Pakistan’s law of sedition says.

“This section of the law is of sensitive nature and its implementation needs to be regulated,” Afzal Butt, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), told Arab News. “There must be a mechanism that needs to be followed before registration of a criminal case under the sedition law … The due process must be followed to avoid discrimination and vengeance.”

Butt said a majority of the cases registered under sedition and incitement laws were later quashed by the courts for being “frivolous in nature and lodged in violation of the merit.”

“Criminal cases are not registered against journalists anywhere in the world on the basis of their news and analysis,” he said, adding that Pakistani governments had been using these laws to gag journalists and media houses for decades.

“These laws should either be abolished completely, or reformed at least to ensure their just application,” Butt said.

The Pakistan government says it does not suppress the press.

Legal experts have also raised questions over the sedition law, calling for its repeal to ensure the freedom of expression.

“There is need to at least revisit this British-era law’s characteristics and features to avoid its misuse by the authorities,” Advocate Mian Ali Ashfaq, who recently represented journalist Imran Riaz Khan in sedition cases, told Arab News.

He said the charge of sedition against anybody was of a “heinous nature” that would quickly invite public reaction, therefore a vetting process before registration of the case should be made mandatory.

“Proper protocols should be set up to see if the sedition charges against a journalist or activist were substantiated and tangible,” he said. “There must be no blanket application of the law.”

Advocate Abid Saqi, who challenged the application of sedition laws in a case in the Lahore High Court in October 2020, said the law was made when there was no concept of the constitution and the freedom of expression.

“This law must be abolished,” he told Arab News, “as this is against the fundamental rights of the citizens including the freedom of expression.”


In Karachi, 104-year-old migrant from India recalls potent memories of a violent partition

Updated 11 August 2022

In Karachi, 104-year-old migrant from India recalls potent memories of a violent partition

  • Muhammad Akram Khan’s family swapped an affluent life for an uncertain future in Pakistan in 1947
  • Khan got his passport made a few years ago but the dream to travel back to India could not come true

KARACHI: With six metal suitcases, three filled with gold and three with clothes, the family of Muhammad Akram Khan fled Jabalpur in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for newly created Pakistan in 1947, leaving without saying goodbye even to best friends and forsaking a sprawling home and a vast business for an uncertain future in Karachi.

In this undated photo, Muhammad Akram Khan, 104-year-old migrant, photographed with the children in his family in his hometown, Jabalpur in India. (AN photo)

Khan’s family was among the millions whose lives were thrown into turmoil by the partition of colonial India into two states, mainly Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan, when British rule ended in 1947.

One of the biggest mass migrations in history was marred by violence and bloodshed as about 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs swapped countries in a political upheaval that cost more than a million lives.

Muhammad Akram Khan, a 104-year-old transporter who migrated from Jabalpur in India after the independence of Pakistan 75 years ago, shares with Arab News his story of partition at Frere Hall, Karachi on August 2, 2022. (AN photo)

Before partition, Khan, now 104 years old, recalled that his family lived in harmony with Hindu neighbours and the young man’s best friend was a neighbour called Shankar Lal. But in the months running up to the partition of India on August 14, Khan said he began to feel unsafe and started convincing his reluctant father to leave for Pakistan.

“I’m alive today but tomorrow they’ll kill me,” he said, quoting his words to his father. “All young men will be killed if we don’t leave.”

When the family eventually left, they took the route of Khokhrapar, a border town situated in Tharparkar District in Sindh, considering it safer compared to Punjab province where much of the violence was taking place. With death looming over him, Khan walked for miles and miles with his family, often carrying his disabled mother on his shoulders, until they made it safely to the other side. 

The Sikh personnel who checked the family’s luggage at the border were kind, he said, and the Sikh and Hindus they met along the way, who were en route India, also didn’t show hate.

But the ordeal didn’t end there.

Muhammad Akram Khan, a 104-year-old migrant, chats with his sons and grandchildren in Karachi, Pakistan, on August 2, 2022. (AN photo)

In Pakistan “there was no shade,” Khan said, and his family had to wait a whole day to catch a train to Karachi. At first, the family lived in a small house owned by a relative, before moving to a shanty for several years. Finally, at a cost of Rs2,400, the government allotted them two small quarters in Karachi's Korangi area.

Muhammad Akram Khan, a 104-year-old transporter who migrated from Jabalpur in India after the independence of Pakistan 75 years ago, shares with Arab News his story of partition at Frere Hall, Karachi on August 2, 2022. (AN photo)

It took Khan a few months to grasp the new reality of his life, but he ultimately resumed the scrap business after selling the 12 kilograms of gold the family had brought with them from Madhya Pradesh and eventually bought cycle-rickshaws to launch a transportation business.

“I earned and built bungalows,” Khan said, smiling. “I have constructed 25 to 30 houses, all through my hard work.”

The centenarian said he had lived a full life, tying the knot four times.

“Now at my home there are 200 people,” he said smiling. His eldest daughter is in her 90s and youngest is 14 years old.  

Though he does not regret his decision to migrate to Pakistan, Khan said he was distressed by the country’s ever worsening economic situation.

“We dreamt of a great Pakistan,” he said. “We wanted young people to be honest, hardworking and respectful toward their parents and country.”

Khan got his passport a few decades ago and had a strong urge to return to Jabalpur to meet old friends. The dream of traveling back to India, however, has not come true.

“I don’t think I will be able to go now since my eyes don’t open,” he said, wistfully. “In any case, who am I going to meet there after so much time has passed?”